Last week I met a friend for coffee. It was the end of summer that I saw him last — O how that winged tyrant flies! — and it was lucky because he’s graduated and he’s very busy these days. It was nice to see him, and we had a really good conversation.
We said the usual how are you doing, what’s new? And then my friend said, “I’ve applied for an internship with the Canadian Embassy.”
“That’s great,” I said. “Did you get it?”
“I haven’t heard yet. They said they’d contact me within two weeks for an interview.”
“I’m sure you’ll get it.”
“But what if I don’t?” he said. “There are a lot of people applying for it.”
“Do you think you will get it?”
“Well, I hope so.”
“What did the application require?”
“Write an essay and submit a cover letter and my transcripts.”
“Did you do all that?”
“Was your essay good? Did your cover letter say all that you wanted it to?”
“As much as it could.”
“And your grades are fine, right?”
“They’re okay. Yeah, they’re good.”
“So you did everything that you had to do, right?”
“Okay, then what’s the worry?”
“Because!” he said. “Everyone will have done all that stuff, and there are like two positions.”
“But you did all that stuff,” I said.
“Yeah, I told you.”
“Okay,” and I went and refilled my coffee.
When I returned, my friend said. “What? So I’m just supposed to forget about it and leave it up to the Gods?”
I laughed. “Essentially.”
“But what if I don’t get it?”
“That’s out of our control at this point.”
“But that sucks,” he said.
I agreed. “But unfortunately, it’s the truth.”
Rather than allow this revelation to dampen our spirits, we started talking about the idea of diligence and determination, and asked the question: Do these qualities actually pay off in the end?
It’s something my friend is experiencing, and many of us, too, as we reach the end of our career at U of T. Will all of my hard work lead to a satisfying career? The conclusion my friend and I settled on (I’m sure we could have conversed longer and more inquisitively) is that, at some point along the road, the decision of whether we become doctors, lawyers, professors, authors, sports-stars, or even astronauts, will be out of our control. And what is most important is that we pursue our goals up to that point.
My friend did all that he could for his application. I’ve known him since first year, and it was never his plan to work at the Canadian Embassy. But once the opportunity arose, he applied himself to the utmost of his ability, rallying the full breadth of his university experience and education, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
He did everything he could, and then surrendered to Chance. It’s funny that we recognize success only when its says, “You passed!” or “You’re hired!” or “Welcome aboard!” We fail to acknowledge that every day you go to class, by your own will, out of desire, or a sense of responsibility, is a triumph of our university education. Every time you commit yourself to learning, regardless of grades, is a success of your character and your development as a human being.
It sucks that four years at university doesn’t secure us a dream job. But being a university student means that we have the unparalleled opportunity to prepare and apply ourselves with every ounce of interest, intelligence, honesty, and strength that we possess to gain that desired career, before we throw our lives back into the hands of Chance.
My friend got an interview. I’m looking forward to seeing him again. Maybe we’ll have another great conversation.
‘Til then, stay diamond, U of T!